The new Western Force captain: David Pocock

Emirates Western Force star flanker David Pocock will play his first match for the club since being officially announced as captain a fortnight ago.  The West Australian’s will tackle reigning FxPro Super Rugby champions Queensland in Perth on Thursday evening in their final practise outing before the 2012 season.

Coach Richard Graham has also added the experience of Wallabies capped fullback Cameron Shepherd into his run-on side with both teams able to call on 26 man squads.

Graham said Pocock’s inclusion on Thursday was a good opportunity for the backrower to become more familiar with the responsibilities of captaining the side.

“I tossed up whether to play him before the season started particularly with the amount of rugby that he has played last year, however I think it was important, given he is going to captain the side this year, to spend some time with the group in the middle,” Graham said.

Youngster Justin Turner will start the match at scrumhalf after completing his first match since late 2010 in Darwin a week and a half ago.  The Australian U20’s representative is on the comeback from consecutive knee reconstructions and will partner James Stannard in the halves.

Graham has stuck with his second row pair of Sam Wykes and Toby Lynn with Nathan Sharpe again rested.  The centre combination of Rory Sidey and Winston Stanley will have further opportunities to flourish after an impressive showing in the opening trial match.

“I thought Rory and Winston did some really good things last week, we made some first phase breaks and challenged the line.  Given how well they performed last week they deserved another opportunity against the Reds,” Graham said.

The coach though was keen to point out that there are no guarantees ahead of the club’s opening round fixture against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday Feb 24 with positions up for grabs across the field.

“Reputations don’t count for anything and the challenge for the group is to front up on Thursday night and play well,” Graham said.

“I want to see a progression from our opening pre-season game against the Brumbies.  We have a very clear focus on what we want to achieve from this trial and it’s a great opportunity to play a few combinations and introduce more players back into games.”

The match will be played across traditional 40 minutes halves but with an option for the referee to call a drinks break 20 minutes into each period.

Starting XV
1.            Pek Cowan
2.            Nathan Charles
3.            Salesi Ma’afu
4.            Sam Wykes
5.            Toby Lynn
6.            Matt Hodgson
7.            David Pocock (Captain)
8.            Ben McCalman
9.            Justin Turner
10.          James Stannard
11.          Napolioni Nalaga
12.          Rory Sidey
13.          Winston Stanley
14.          Sam Wara
15.          Cameron Shepherd

Reserves to be taken from the following players;
Phoenix Battye, Angus Cottrell, Gene Fairbanks, Tetera Faulkner, Kieran Longbottom, Alfie Mafi, Salesi Manu, Ben Seymour, Brett Sheehan, Elvis Taione, Ben Whittaker